Lazy Caturday Reads: The Threat From Trumpist Mass Delusions

Franz-Marc-1880-1916-Chatte-et-ses-petits

Franz Marc (1880-1916), Chatte et ses-petits

Good Morning!!

As we all know, there’s a substantial portion of American society that has surrendered to mass delusions. The things these people believe are so insane that you have to wonder of a large proportion of them may actually have serious, previously undiagnosed psychological disorders. From Twitter yesterday: Two examples of apparently insane people speaking at local board meetings about covid-19 conspiracies.

Some of these crazies have actually acted on their delusions. Recall the man who traveled from North Carolina to Washington DC to investigate the “pizzagate” conspiracy–the belief that Hillary Clinton and other Democrats were using the basement of a pizza restaurant to sexually abuse children and then extract “adrenachrome” from their adrenaline glands to gain immortality. There isn’t even a basement in the restaurant. He took his AR-15 into the place and waved it around. Now he’s in prison.

Believe it or not, the “adrenachrome” delusion comes from the book by Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I read it several times back in the day and I clearly recall the hilarious scene in the book. This is from Raw Story this morning in a very useful piece by Thom Hartmann: Trump’s shared psychosis is destroying the fabric of society

Thompson was bemoaning running out of hashish and being almost out of opium when his “fat Samoan” sidekick offered an alternative:

“As your attorney,” he said, “I advise you not worry.” He nodded toward the bathroom. “Take a hit out of that little brown bottle in my shaving kit.”
“What is it?”

“Adrenochrome,” he said. “You won’t need much. Just a little tiny taste.”
I got the bottle and dipped the head of a paper match into it.

Mary Fedden2

By Mary Fedden

“That’s about right,” he said. “That stuff makes pure mescaline seem like ginger beer. You’ll go completely crazy if you take too much.”

I licked the end of the match. “Where’d you get this?” I asked. “You can’t buy it.”
“Never mind,” he said. “It’s absolutely pure.”

I shook my head sadly. “Jesus! What kind of monster client have you picked up this time? There’s only one source for this stuff…”

He nodded. “The adrenaline glands from a living human body,” I said. “It’s no good if you get it out of a corpse.”

When Thompson asks his “attorney” where the adrenochrome came from, the fictional character tells the fictional tale of having once been hired to represent a child molester/murderer who’d presumably extracted it from one of his victims.

“Christ, what could I say?” Thompson’s sidekick told him. “Even a goddamn werewolf is entitled to legal counsel. I didn’t dare turn the creep down. He might have picked up a letter opener and gone after my pineal gland.” Which then led them to a discussion about eating pineal glands to get high…

The pineal gland episode is even wilder. I doubt if very many of these Pizzagate/Q-Anon cultists have read Hunter Thompson, but somehow this fictional episode was absorbed into their conspiracy theories.

Q-Anon-inspired delusional beliefs have led to a number of real-life incidents of deadly violence. This horror happened a couple of days ago:

HuffPost: Surf Instructor Dad Killed Kids Over QAnon ‘Serpent DNA’ Fears: Feds.

A Southern California man has been charged with killing his two young children with a spearfishing gun, deluded by QAnon conspiracy theories that made him believe that his kids were possessed with serpent DNA and that killing them would save the world, authorities said.

Matthew Taylor Coleman, 40, of Santa Barbara, was arrested Monday while reentering the U.S. from Mexico, where the bodies of his 2-year-old son and 10-month-old daughter had been found earlier that day, according to the criminal complaint.

Coleman, who founded a surf school in Santa Barbara, had been reported missing by his wife after she told authorities that he unexpectedly took off with their two children on Saturday while they were planning a family camping trip. He didn’t say where he was going, failed to answer her text messages and didn’t have a child’s car seat in his vehicle, she told authorities….

Mexico authorities later reported to U.S. officials that the bodies of two children matching the missing kids’ description had been found that morning in a ditch with large puncture wounds in their chests.

In a recorded interview, authorities said Coleman confessed to killing his children and leaving their bodies in Mexico. He said he drove them across the border on Saturday, having “believed his children were going to grow into monster so he had to kill them,” according to the criminal complaint.

Coleman told authorities that he was “enlightened by QAnan and illuminati conspiracy theories and was receiving visions and signs revealing that his wife … possessed serpent DNA and had passed it onto his children,” according to the complaint.

Killing his children, he told investigators, would be “saving the world from monsters,” the complaint said. He knew it was wrong, “but it was the only course of action that would save the world.”

Brigid Marlin, 1936

By Brigid Marlin, 1936

How many of these Q Anon cultists actually have undiagnosed psychological disorders? I’d bet quite a few. A bit more from the Thom Hartman article quoted above:

The University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism notes that 68 percent of the open Qanon followers arrested at the US Capitol on January 6th who had also committed crimes before or after that coup attempt “have documented mental health concerns, according to court records and other public sources.”

Their psychological issues included “post-traumatic stress disorder, paranoid schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and Munchausen syndrome by proxy.”

The “Qanon Shaman” of so many iconic 1/6 pictures has now pleaded mental illness as his reason for showing up at the Capitol, as have two others who “were found to be mentally unfit to stand trial and were transferred to mental health care facilities.”

Of the six women arrested on 1/6 who’d also committed crimes before or after the coup attempt, the researchers note, “all six…have documented mental health concerns.”

These people are not only committing crimes because of their Trumpian delusions, but also they are helping to spread the coronavirus by claiming it is a government hoax and refusing to get vaccinated and wear masks. And powerful Republicans like Ron DeSantis and Gregg Abbott are catering to their delusions with deadly results, as I wrote in my Thursday post. The latest dire reports from Florida:

Tampa Bay Times: Florida COVID deaths rise as delta spreads; infections hit 21,600 a day.

Florida continues to see record COVID-19 infections across the state. Now, deaths are rising too.

The state reported 151,415 infections from Aug. 6-12, according to the state Department of Health. That’s an average of more than 21,600 cases a day. It’s the third week in a row that the Sunshine State set a record for weekly cases. Only Louisiana saw more infections per capita.

Florida also reported 1,071 deaths, a 74 percent increase from the previous week. Two children are among the dead.

More than 500,000 Floridians have been infected since June 19, when cases began climbing again. The more contagious delta variant is the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the nation, rewriting the old rules of staying safe as it powers the fourth — and worst — wave of the 17-month pandemic.

The burden on Florida hospitals continues to grow with an average of 2,222 new COVID-19 patients admitted every day over the past week, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. As of Friday, there were 15,441 confirmed COVID-19 patients being cared for in state hospitals.

The Sunshine State accounts for more than one out of every six infections and one out of every five hospitalizations in the U.S. this past week.

Gertrude Abercrombie, White Cat

Gertrude Abercrombie, White Cat

Buzzfeed News: Florida Hospitals Are “Stacking Patients In Hallways” As The Delta Variant Surges.

The calls came fast, first with a cardiac arrest case, next with multiple patients who were having trouble breathing, and all were suspected to have COVID. Usually, Stew Eubanks, a paramedic in Sumter County, Florida, deals with lots of minor emergencies, but now it’s mainly life-threatening cases. After a nonstop 24 hours, his Wednesday shift ended with another cardiac arrest.

“It’s bad right now,” Eubanks, 39, told BuzzFeed News. “We’re stacking patients in the hallways, stacking patients in the waiting room.”

Florida’s hospitals are filling up, with nearly 85% of inpatient hospital beds occupied, according to the Florida Hospital Association’s latest report. In the last week, the state has averaged more than 20,000 new COVID-19 cases a day, with nearly 15,000 people hospitalized. That’s shattered previous case records for the state, and COVID-19 deaths, which had been steadily declining since February, are also steeply rising.

By the end of his shift, Eubanks had transported 14 patients, a sharp increase from the six he’d see on a normal day prepandemic servicing the Villages, the largest retirement community in the country. Not only did he have more patients than normal, but they were also much sicker and required more critical care. Of the 13 hospitals in the local area, eight had limitations on which patients they would accept, including a standalone ER that warned it did not have enough oxygen to admit more COVID patients. Eubanks said even patients who manage to get admitted are waiting over 12 hours to receive care and that hospitals no longer have the space to separate highly contagious COVID patients from other people requiring emergency medical attention.

“Everybody is on fire and nobody has any water,” Eubanks said.

And from Texas:

Carma Hassan at CNN: ‘Your child will wait for another child to die.’ Amid Covid-19 surge, Dallas County has no pediatric ICU beds left, county judge says.

Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations are surging and in Dallas County, Texas, there are “zero ICU beds left for children,” county judgeClay Jenkins said in a news conference Friday morning.

“That means if your child’s in a car wreck, if your child has a congenital heart defect or something and needs an ICU bed, or more likely if they have Covid and need an ICU bed, we don’t have one. Your child will wait for another child to die,” Jenkins said. “Your child will just not get on the ventilator, your child will be CareFlighted to Temple or Oklahoma City or wherever we can find them a bed, but they won’t be getting one here unless one clears.”

The judge added no ICU beds have been available for children for at least 24 hours. The Texas Department of State Health Services told CNN the shortage of pediatric ICU beds is related to a shortage in medical staff.

Faragó,_Géza_-_Slim_Woman_with_a_Cat_(1913)

Géza Faragó, Slim Woman with a Cat

“Hospitals are licensed for a specific number of beds and most hospitals regularly staff fewer beds than they are licensed for. They can’t use beds that aren’t staffed. With the increase in COVID cases, hospitals are experiencing a shortage of people to staff the beds that they are licensed for,” department spokesperson Lara Anton said in an email, adding that staffing agencies in the state are working on recruiting medical surge staff from across the US.

Earlier in the week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced more than 2,500 medical staff would be deployed to hospitals in the state to help with the increasing number of Covid-19 patients. More than 11,200 people are hospitalized with Covid-19 in Texas, according to state data, with roughly 323 ICU beds left available statewide.

Jenkins spoke alongside other elected officials as well as leaders from the Workers Defense Action Fund and other groups who said Abbott’s handling of the pandemic is putting residents in danger.

In July, Abbott issued an executive order combining many of his earlier Covid-19 orders, which included language that no governmental entity, including school districts, could require masks.

The Austin-American Statesman: Doctors see Texas’ COVID surge lasting months as hospital resources stretch thinner.

Austin-area doctors who are seeing COVID-19 cases regularly — and some of the more severe cases up close — say they believe we could be dealing with this latest surge for months to come.

Driven by the highly transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus and fueled by a significant unvaccinated population, the spike in COVID-19 cases has squeezed the number of available hospital beds in Texas to a pandemic low of 7,187 — in yet another troubling sign of a strained hospital infrastructure.

According to state data, only about 439 total hospital beds are available for an 11-county region, made up of 2.3 million people across Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Lee, Llano and San Saba counties. The region had only seven staffed intensive care unit beds available Friday, up from just two on Tuesday.

“It’s much more cases in the hospital than we’ve ever really dealt with,” said Dr. Brian Metzger, the medical director of infectious diseases at St. David’s HealthCare. “It’s rough. Everybody is just tired.”

The patients are the unvaccinated, mainly in their 30s and 40s, but some in their 20s as well as some older people. Metzger is also starting to see families. Currently in his hospital are two brothers who have been in the intensive care unit for weeks. He also had been treating a husband and wife: She’s on a ventilator, and he died last night.

CNN reports that the crazies may be building up to more January 6-style violence: Calls for violence online similar to before January 6 Capitol attack, DHS Intel chief says.

Online extremist rhetoric is strikingly similar to the buildup to the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, with increasing calls for violence linked to conspiracy theories and false narratives, Homeland Security Intelligence chief John Cohen said in an interview with CNN.

There have been online comments such as “the system is broken,” “take action into their own hands” and “bring out the gallows,” Cohen said, offering as paraphrases of what has been observed.

Youki-and-cat-Leonard Tsuguharu Foujita

Youki and Cat, Leonard Tsuguharu

While the conspiracy theories vary, there has been an ongoing narrative focused on the false premise that the presidential election was illegitimate, Cohen said. That narrative is paired with an increase in calls for violence to rectify the situation.

His comments come as the Department of Homeland Security issued a new terrorism bulletin warning the public about increasingly complex and volatile threats and days after DHS alerted state and local authorities to an increase in calls for violence online tied to election-related conspiracy theories.

“It’s very similar to the stuff we saw prior to January 6,” said Cohen, the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis senior official performing the duties of the under secretary. But the comments have stopped short of specific dates and threats, he noted.

Several swirling conspiracy theories point to a process that will change the results of the election.

“Concern from a law enforcement perspective is at a certain point in time, all of the conspiracy theories that point to a change occurring through process are going to sort of wear out. And the question is going to be, are people going to try to resort to violence, in or in furtherance of, that false narrative?” Cohen said.

What can be done about all this mass delusion? I frankly have no idea. All I can do is try to lay out what’s happening. Please let me know what you think. As always, this is an open thread.


A Violent Date Rape; A Troubling Outcome.

How do prosecutors decide which rapes to take to court? Is the deck already stacked against some rape victims? These are two of the questions Anna North tries to answer in her fine two-part article at Jezabel about a young graduate student at the University of Iowa. Rebecca Epstein turned to North to tell her story, because a prosecutor refused to give her a chance to face her rapist in court. Epstein insisted that her real name be used in the article.

Warning: Please be aware that some of the material discussed below may be disturbing to some.

In part 1, “How a Rape Case Went Off the Rails,” describes the crime and its consequences:

Epstein…told me she was violently anally raped on the night of February 16, by a man she had been on a date with, in his apartment. She stayed at the apartment for about an hour afterward, fearful that he might hurt her further if she left. During this time, she had vaginal intercourse with him, which she describes as nonconsensual but nonviolent. When she felt it was safe to leave, she went to a hospital and had a rape kit done. The next day, she filed a police report. She says detectives were largely respectful in their treatment of the case.

Now here comes the really creepy part. The man who raped Epstein wrote a letter to her not long after the crime. The letter is in some ways even more disturbing than the violent crime the writer committed. In the letter, he tries to justify what he did by implying that he’s really a nice guy who respects women. He says that Epstein should have told him ahead of time that if she said no it really meant NO. He tells her she didn’t fight hard enough, so he didn’t realize she didn’t want it. You can read lengthy quotes from this disturbing letter at the link, but here’s one shocking quote:

Of the alleged rape, he writes, “Clearly, you did not enjoy it […] But you must believe that I believed with all my heart and soul at the time that you were overcoming your reluctance, and trying to get into it.” He adds,

I hope intensely that this letter has made you see that I am not malicious or misogynistic, and that I’ve strived earnestly to respond to your needs and desires. It may be too late for me, but I hope that in the future, when playing rough with a guy, these explanations might guide better behavior. For example, we should have agreed at the very beginning upon a safety word that would mean explicitly: “this no does not mean you can keep trying or that I’m reluctant, it means you better shut it the fuck down.” If we had such a word, and you used it, there would be no confusion and I would never, ever have violated it.

WTF?! I wonder how many times this guy pulled this with women? He even suggests the possibility that they could get together and “play again.”

Epstein says this man “choked” her and “pinned [her] down.” In addition, she said “my ribs are all fucked up, possibly broken, my ankle is sprained, i hurt all over, i’m bloody.”

But a month after the attack, Epstein was told by Asst. County Attorney Anne Lahey that she was not going to have the rapist arrested or prosecuted. There is disagreement between Epstein and Lahey as to why and how this decision was reached. Epstein has bipolar disorder and she claims that was one factor. The fact that she stayed in the rapist’s apartment afterward was another.

Says Epstein,

She said that an Iowa jury would see my behavior as too promiscuous and crazy, and they would judge me and side with the defendant. She also said she didn’t think there was a very good chance I would win, so she was trying to protect me by not putting me through it, and I indicated that I would rather go through it and lose than not be able to face him in court.

Lahey was unconvinced. Epstein says she finally asked, “so you’re saying that because I have a mental illness, anyone who rapes me basically gets a free pass?” She says Lahey replied, “Yes.”

Lahey claims that Epstein’s psychological disorder was not a factor in the decision, but would not say what the alternative reasons were.

In part 2 of the Jezabel article, North investigated whether in fact women with psychological disorders were less likely to receive justice after being raped.
A number of experts confirmed that this may be the case. For example:

I talked to Karla Miller, Executive Director of the Rape Victim Advocacy Program. She told me that county attorneys can be reluctant to prosecute rape cases in which the victim has mental illness, due to concerns that the jury won’t see the victim as credible. If that’s the case, she said that victims can be “revictimized” by defense attorneys who make their illness — and any other vulnerabilities they can think of — an issue in the trial. Miller explained that if an attorney felt such revictimization might occur, it could be a good decision not to prosecute, but that this decision was “case-dependent.” She added that it was “absolutely not” fair that people with mental illnesses had a harder time getting justice.

Miller also noted, chillingly, that some rapists actually target people with mental illnesses or other disabilities, because they know victims with these conditions will have a harder time taking them to court.

It is definitely true that rapists, who are predators, choose potential victims who are vulnerable. They tend to attack smaller, weaker women and women they sense are psychologically troubled.

I just want to say that I don’t like the terms “mental illness” and “mentally ill.” In the field, the term is “psychological disorder.” There is no illness that is strictly physical or “mental,” including cancer and heart disease.

Some psychological disorders are very serious–like schizophrenia, some don’t interfere that much with a person’s life once she gets help from medication and/or therapy. Bipolar disorder is a very manageable issue, and people with this disorder usually are not out of touch with reality. They simply have wider mood swings than a typical person.

Juries need to be educated about rape and about psychological disorders. I realize that defense attorneys will use anything to discredit a victim, but Rebecca Epstein wanted to face her attacker in court and tell her story. I think it’s very likely that the prosecutor in this case was fearful that a jury would be biased against Epstein not only because this was a date rape, but also because she suffers from bipolar disorder.

That is just plain wrong. Now the man who raped Epstein will continue to behave as he did with Epstein. He now knows he can get away with rape, especially if he chooses a victim with psychological issues. He will rape more women. Every women who comes in contact with him is in danger. And his name is a secret so far.